Chapter Four: A Burden of Guilt

“Mr. Frodo!” Sam’s feet pounded against the hard, cold floor as he ran after his friend and master. Frodo quickened his pace ahead. “Mr. Frodo, please!”

Frodo looked over his shoulder as he ran. “Go back, Sam! Just leave me alone for once!” he yelled back.

Sam saw a sparkle of tears as the sunlight shone against Frodo’s cheeks. In the silence of the field, Sam could hear his master’s soft sobs over the sound of his own racing heartbeat and heavy breathing.

Frodo saw the camp just ahead. He slowed his pace slightly as he approached the beds and collapsed on his own. Sam followed after Frodo and was at his master’s side within moments. Tears covered Sam’s cheeks and he slowly approached Frodo’s bed. Frodo hid his face in the folds of the covers.

“Go away, Sam.” Frodo mumbled into the fabric. “I don’t want to talk to you.”

The bed sank slightly as Sam sat at its edge and sighed. “Mr. Frodo… I’m sorry. I know this—this hurts. I just can’t believe—” Sam shook his head and tears poured down his cheeks. “Can’t believe he’s gone…” In reality, the news still hadn’t sunk in with Sam; it would be awhile before he really understood what it was Gandalf had told him, and knew what exactly it meant.

Frodo winced at the sound of Sam’s sobs. “Sam…” Frodo’s voice held hints of sympathy but with the bite of annoyance, “please, don’t. I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but all I want right now is to be left alone,” he punched the bed with a weak fist to emphasize this word.

Sam gave him a stubborn response; “I’m not going nowhere, Mr. Frodo. I’m here to help you, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

“If you want to help me, Sam,” Frodo looked up from the bed and frowned at Sam from under his unruly curls and the tears that covered his cheeks, “then you’ll leave.”

Frodo’s voice held a harsh tone that he had never before used willingly towards Sam, and it hurt his friend to hear it aimed at him. Sam bit his lip and turned away, unable to see his master glaring at him so. The tone in Frodo’s voice and the glares he was getting now almost made Sam want to get up and walk out, but he hadn’t walked out on Frodo yet, and he didn’t plan to start now.

Try as he might, Sam just couldn’t understand it. Why was Frodo being so spiteful to him? Had he done something wrong, or is this just Frodo’s way of responding to Pippin’s death? Sam broke into fresh tears when his thoughts went back to the death of his friend. ‘It’s not fair,’ he thought to himself, ‘that one so young and full of hope and spirit should be forced into battle… into death…’. Sam looked back at Frodo and saw that he had once again hid his face in the sheets of his bed and his shoulders shook as he sobbed into the mattress. Sam felt as though he would rather like to see Frodo mad at him again than he would his master so distraught. The gardener crawled further onto the bed and reached out to lightly touch Frodo’s shoulder.

Frodo shuddered at the touch and shrugged of the hand. He tried to repeat ‘Leave me alone,’ but his words got caught in his throat and just came out as an especially loud sob.

Sam shook his head, beside himself with worry and confusion; he was clueless as to what he should do now. He couldn’t figure out why Frodo was acting this way, and was even less sure of what he could do to help ease his pain. He sighed and decided to try and talk Frodo through this.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Frodo. I know this hurts… it’s certainly a shock.” Sam got a loud sob as a reply. “But we—we have to get through this, somehow. I know we can do it, Mr. Frodo; we can get through this together. And what of poor Merry?” Sam felt more pain cut through his heart and tears well up in his eyes. He reached up with his sleeve to wipe them away. “Merry… will be heartbroken; you know how he took responsibility for Pippin this whole time. And we, Mr. Frodo—we have to be strong for him; for Merry.” Frodo simply buried his head further into the mattress and his left hand tightened over the sheet of fabric he had been clutching so that his knuckles were a pure white. Sam sighed sadly and shook his head. “I know this hurts, Mr. Frodo; I know how you must feel—”

“How… could you… possibly… kn-know… how… I feel?” Frodo’s muffled, yet surprisingly firm, voice demanded between his sobs and hiccups. He slowly looked up at Sam with bloodshot eyes and a face that was damp with tears.

Sam felt taken aback by this question, and looked at Frodo with a confused expression on his face. “What… do you mean, Mr. Frodo?”

“You… have n-no idea what I’m feeling r-right now.”

“Well I don’t think that’s fair at all, begging your pardon. Pippin was my dear friend, too, and I just can’t believe he’s gone—”

“No, Sam!” Frodo yelled and caused Sam to jump so suddenly that he nearly fell off the mattress. “You still don’t know!” Frodo slowly pushed himself up so that he could face Sam in the eye. His shoulders shook as he held back a sob.

Sam was genuinely confused, and his blank, slightly hurt expression showed it. “Sorry, sir, but what don’t I get?”

Frodo wiped his face with the back of his sleeve and drew a deep breath. “Had I destroyed the Ring just a few minutes earlier; had I not given in to my own weak will and stupid cravings; had I had the strength to do the task that I set out to do, Pippin would still be alive! Just a few moments earlier and his life would have been spared!”

A look of disgust formed across Frodo’s face. “But I lingered! I couldn’t do it! That wretched Gollum had to bite it from my hand!” He held out his mangled hand and looked at it with disgust before hiding it away again. He turned to face Sam with a hint of pleading in his eyes. “Don’t you see, Sam? It’s my fault! It’s my fault Pippin’s dead! I was too weak! I killed him! I’m nothing more than a murderer! I might have held the sword that felled him; I’m no better than the troll. In fact, I’m worse than it. If it weren’t for me, Sam, Pippin would still be alive!”

These words cut Sam almost as much as Gandalf’s and he put his hand on Frodo’s shoulder. He waited for his master to meet his eyes before and said, “If it weren’t for you, Mr. Frodo, none of us would still be alive.” Tears rolled down Sam’s cheeks and his mouth formed a small, sad smile. “You’re a hero, Mr. Frodo; you’ve saved us all, and don’t you forget it. Pippin knew the dangers of following you as much as the rest of us. But, just like the rest of us, he followed all the same. He would have understood why he had to die, Mr. Frodo, and he wouldn’t have blamed you for a moment.” He reached up with his thumb to catch a stray tear as it rolled down Frodo’s cheek. “Not for a moment.”

“If I’m such a hero, then how could I allow my own cousin to die?” Frodo shrugged off Sam’s hand and felt a knot form in his throat. “Why did I not die myself? Why is it that the young and innocent are killed when those who deserve death are spared? I should have died Sam; everyone thought I would. Even I thought I would, and now I wish I had.”

“Stop it, Mr. Frodo!” Sam could take no more of his master’s talk. It pierced his heart to hear Frodo saying such things, and angered him that his master did not realize his own importance. “Pippin’s death was no one’s fault, and there was nothing you could’ve done to stop it. It was out of your control.”

“Was it, Sam?” Frodo demanded. “Don’t you understand? Pippin was mortally injured in the few short minutes of battle, minutes I delayed and gave in to my weakness!” Tears flowed freely down Frodo’s cheeks, and he no longer cared enough to continue to wipe them away.

Across from him, Sam was in no better of a state and his cheeks were now as rosy as his eyes. “And don’t you understand, Mr. Frodo, that none of us blame you for any of it. You can’t blame yourself for feeling the intense temptation of the Ring. You’re our hero! You’ve done what no one else would have had the strength to do! Elves will sing your praises for years to come!”

“I don’t care, Sam!” Frodo snapped at the gardener. “I don’t care for songs or poems or remembrance. I don’t care for any of it!”

Sam paused and tried to read Frodo’s expression. “What do you care for, Mr. Frodo?” He asked slowly.

Frodo fell silent. The immediate answer was that he cared for nothing, but his compassion for his friends banished the thought. He lowered his head in defeat. “I wish I knew, Sam. But I feel as though whatever I had cared for, whatever it was that I had been fighting for, is now gone.” He stopped himself from saying anymore, as what he wished to say would worry Sam too much.

In the silence of their surroundings, Frodo wandered in deep thought. In the few days it had been since the destruction of the Ring, he had felt himself changing. He felt thin. Every moment that went by he sensed more of himself fade away; each breath now was a battle just to continue breathing. Now, at the core of his grieving, he knew he had failed Pippin, and he hated himself for it.

Though Frodo had left his true emotions unsaid, Sam could sense his struggle; he could see the distance in his master’s eyes. Sam longed to see Frodo as he was in Bag End, before his life was torn by Rings and Dark Lords. He would give the Shire if only he could see the old sparkle in Frodo’s eyes and hear the clear ringing of his laughter. Tired and scarred, his master now looked as though he would never smile again.

Sam wished he could understand the depth of pain Frodo was feeling, but why Frodo was blaming himself was beyond Sam’s comprehension. He sadly knew that all he could do was be there to watch helplessly while tears rolled down his master’s eyes as his world crumbles upon him and he collapses from the unbearable weight of the burden that will continue to haunt him until the end of his days.

Sam reached out and once again brushed the tears off his master’s cheek with his thumb. Frodo looked up at Sam’s sympathetic expression. “I’m sorry, Mr. Frodo.” Sam gave him a sad smile. “I wish I could help you see how much you’ve done for the world, and help to ease your pain, but I don’t know how to do it.”

“You being here is enough help, Sam.” Frodo’s mouth formed a hint of a grateful smile through his tears as he finally gave in and accepted Sam’s desperate attempts to help him. “I can’t imagine facing this hardship alone.”

Sam gave a sad smile and brought Frodo into a warm embrace. Instead of shrugging him off, Frodo wrapped his arms around his friend’s neck and cried into his shoulder. And so the two stayed for the remainder of the day and some time into the night, the fabric of their shirts catching the other’s tears, and unaware of time or space and feeling only the weight of their loss and comfort of each other.